When politics takes centrestage

PoliticsBy Sin Chew Daily

The third edition of the Selangor Manual Guideline and State Planning Standards has very stringent conditions, triggering controversies over the restrictions on the development of non-Muslim places of worship in the vicinity of a mosque or Muslim houses.

It was within everyone’s anticipation that the country’s Chinese and non-Muslim communities would rise up and protest, as rival political parties engaged in their war of words like they always have in the past.

The controversy also gave both MCA and Gerakan a golden opportunity to launch their offensives against DAP, which has been forced into submission due to its own oversight.

In the midst of the war of words, abusive criticisms far outweighed rational arguments. Where political manoeuvring is concerned, MCA and Gerakan have banked on this issue to bruise DAP’s image while DAP is trying hard to minimise the damage.

MCA has vowed to bring this matter to court if the Selangor state government fails to rectify the controversial parts of the third edition of the planning guidelines within a fortnight.

In response, senior Selangor executive councillor Teng Chang Khim has challenged MCA to do this sooner than later.

With political tussles taking centrestage, the dilemma of non-Muslim religious organisations has been obscured.

This, unfortunately, couldn’t have been more normal in this country where any controversy is conveniently exploited by politicians to attack their rivals, but never as an opportunity that could be harnessed to put things right.

Simply put, politicians only see the “destruction” of an event and not the inspiration it brings or the opportunity for further improvement it offers.

Take the Selangor Manual Guideline and State Planning Standards for instance. It had been raised by accident, thanks to the public’s awareness of the fact that similar restrictions on the construction of non-Muslim places of worship had also been enforced in several other states in the country.

So, instead of blasting each other, perhaps political parties on both sides of the divide should pool their resources together to rectify the problems and ensure that non-Muslims are accorded fair and equal treatment in this country, in upholding the religious freedom enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

Political reality is cruel. Election is a zero-sum game and it is inevitable for DAP and MCA/Gerakan to embroil themselves in the fierce battle to bring down the other.

Such offensive-defensive warfare is an integral part of democratic politics, which we all can understand. But the thing is, the rights and interests of the non-Muslim community should be more important than short-term political gains.

Meanwhile, the Selangor Manual Guideline and State Planning Standards issue has brought out an even broader question and highlighted the plight of non-Muslim organisations in the country.

Therefore, it is imperative that political parties focus their attention on this matter and get the problems solved as soon as possible.

Indeed, the war of words is very much a part of democratic politics, and there is no way we can avoid this.

That said, in a highly matured democracy, politicians should not only know how to lambast their opponents, but must also be able to see the core and major problem in each of the controversies and take the necessary measures to rectify the irregularities.

Sin Chew Daily is a local vernacular publication

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